The Mystery of Eternity
I was afraid of a lot of different things when I was younger. The dark, monsters, bad dreams, scary dogs, the list could go on and on. However, there was one particular thing that really made my mind spin and brought fear and trembling into the core of my being. This fear was a simple question: “How long is eternity?”
I can remember pondering this question a few years after becoming a Christian. Keep in mind, I was only five years old when I became a Christian, which means I was only around seven or eight when this question popped into my mind.
I can remember lying in bed at night and thinking to myself, “If I die, how long will I be in heaven for?” A tinge crept up my spine when I came to the realization that Heaven is eternal, and eternal is forever.
Eternity is a scary concept for a seven year old. Well, actually, eternity is a scary concept regardless of how old you are.
The reason eternity is so scary to us is because it is completely impossible for us to understand, and yet, there is something about eternity that we are innately drawn to.
In the Old Testament book “Ecclesiastes,” the author (likely Solomon, but known simply as “The Teacher”) writes in much detail over the many aspects of reality that humanity simply does not understand. As The Teacher contemplates all of the different mysteries of life, he unequivocally comes to the conclusion that “everything is meaningless.”
The Teacher comes to this conclusion because he realizes that no matter what humans do, we will always be held to the inescapable fate of finality. However, even though human begins are finite creatures, we still crave more, and The Teacher says as much in his reflection.
“9 What does the worker gain from his struggles? 10 I have seen the task that God has given the children of Adam to keep them occupied. 11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11)
In a comprehensive reflection over the intricacies of life, The Teacher comes to the conclusion that human beings can understand some things, ponder other things, but are unable to know everything.
This is elegantly put when he says, “God has placed eternity in our hearts.” In saying this The Teacher is making the statement, “Humans can understand the time we live in, ponder and wonder about the implications of eternity, but cannot comprehend it.”
Simply put, eternity and all its splendor is a complete mystery to us. However, when it comes to mysteries we always want to know the answer.
Think about how often you have been reading a good mystery book, and want to know the outcome so badly that you turn to the final chapters and read them before finding out how the book even came to that point.
Humans crave understanding, and the fact that we can’t understand eternity often bewilders and wreaks havoc within us.
As a little boy I couldn’t sleep at night because my mind was constantly at war with this question over eternity. However, one night my mom came into my room and gave me a satisfactory response for my contemplation, and ever since I have been able to sleep well even though I can’t understand eternity.
Her response was this, “Eternity seems scary to us now because we aren’t made for it, which means we can’t understand it. But there is a part of us that was made for eternity, and that part, the Spirit of God within us, is longing for it.”
As Christians, as creatures made to be with God, we have a picture of eternity placed within our souls. I would venture to say that we are the only creatures in existence that can even ponder eternity. However, the reason we can’t understand it is because the human side of our being is tied to the fate of this world, even though Christ’s Spirit within us is not.
The truth is, our innate desire to ponder and contemplate over the mystery of eternity is simply our souls trying to get back to where they belong, and we won’t ever understand this mystery until we get there.
Even though we can’t skip ahead to the final chapters as we journey towards the end of this life, we can still excitedly anticipate the fulfillment of all mysteries that are currently beyond our understanding, and will eventually be answered in the life that is to come.
“10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for the day of God and hasten its coming. Because of that day, the heavens will be dissolved with fire and the elements will melt with heat. 13 But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13)
Questions for Reflection
1. The mystery of eternity is a pretty heavy topic. Why is it so important for Christians to at least begin to contemplate it?
2. If we cannot understand eternity, then how can we understand where God comes from? How did He bring all things into existence?
3. Some scientists say that the universe is eternal. If this is the case, how would it affect the existence of God? How can we prove that the universe is not eternal?